Young women often hear about a Republican “War on Women” during campaign season.  They are told abortion rights are under attack and hear clumsy white male candidates make awkward statements about women that sound vaguely sexist.

These sound bites miss the big picture of what’s really at stake in the election. Young women shouldn’t accept cartoonish characterizations of the political parties but should recognize that they have a real choice between two competing philosophies that tend to be represented by Democrats and Republicans.  Conservatives and Republicans aren’t anti-woman or anti-progress; rather, conservatives support a different approach to government and economics because we think it will help women and create a better, fairer, stronger, richer, and safer country.

For example, just this week the Independent Women’s Forum, the leading women’s group on the right, released Working for Women: A Modern Agenda for Improving Women’s Lives that presents a conservative slate of policy reforms to help more women thrive without growing government. The report advances ideas that give women more control over the most important parts of their lives so that we can all pursue our own vision of happiness.

Here is just some of what the conservative agenda offers women:

More Job Options:  Today, too many people who want to work can’t find jobs or are stuck in positions that don’t pay enough or offer the chance for advancement.  This is in part because the government has layered on regulations that make it costly for businesses to hire workers.  The lack of jobs particularly harms young people, who need a foot in the door to gain on-the-job skills. That’s why IWF advocates for rolling back government red tape, eliminating expensive and unnecessary licensing regimes, and breaking down other barriers to job creation so that people have better opportunities to find work they want.

True Workplace Flexibility:  Women have different preferences when it comes to work and compensation.  Many want the highest salary possible, but some prefer part-time schedules or flexible hours so they can go to school or care for family members. Democrats’ proposals for more government mandates for leave benefits and overtime pay are presented as a boon to women, but this ignores how these measures backfire on women by reducing take-home pay, preventing flexible work arrangements, and even discouraging employers from hiring women. IWF instead recommends eliminating regulations to allow people to negotiate work and compensation arrangements that fit their unique situations.

Better, More Affordable Education:  America’s education system is saddling young people – particularly young women who are more likely to attend college and take out substantial student loans – with tremendous debt while too often failing to provide useful skills and training.  Part of the problem is government policies that shower resources on a university system that spends that money on expensive administration and high salaries for college executives instead of lowering tuition costs for students. Our education system (both higher education and K-12) needs to refocus support on students, rather than giving money to a wasteful education bureaucracy. Empowering students will encourage schools to lower their costs and provide a real, useful education.

Less Government Corruption, Lower Taxes and Lower Prices:  Conservatives aren’t just curmudgeons when they oppose greater government spending and regulation. We recognize that money taken in by Washington is too often wasted and given to politically-connected entities – big businesses and industries that befriend politicians to get government grants that aren’t in the public interest. This not only wastes taxpayer money, but often also puts small businesses and entrepreneurs at a disadvantages. Regulations also often really act to protect favored industries and big businesses that can afford to follow these costly rules, while bankrupting their smaller competitors. The result is wasted money, higher prices, and less variety for American consumers. Americans should recognize the inherent corruption of these backroom deals and support a streamlined government that creates a level playing field for business while returning money to hardworking taxpayers.

More Affordable, Personalized Health Care:  One of the benefits of the modern age is we can customize the services we buy to meet our unique needs. Unfortunately, when it comes to healthcare, government regulations—in particular, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare—take us in the other direction toward one-size-fits-all health care. By requiring all Americans to obtain the same insurance coverage, Obamacare forces us to pay for coverage we don’t want. Doctors, hospitals, and drug makers don’t have to compete to provide high quality at a low price, which is why premiums are continuing to increase and we end up paying more for less quality service.  Removing these onerous regulations to allow insurance companies and medical providers to directly offer people real choice will bring down costs and improve quality and accessibility.

A True Safety Net:  Everyone wants to make sure that people who need support—when they lose their job, face an illness, or can’t make ends meet—get the help they need.  We need to make sure that government support programs are targeted to those in need so they are sustainable, and create on-ramps into the job market so that people can start moving back up the economic ladder.  Our safety net must not just Band-aid over poverty, but help people transition to sustainable work so they can live flourishing lives.

In short, conservatives want to focus government on its most important jobs, helping those who truly need it, but while putting more power into individual people’s hands.  We reject the idea that Washington knows best and that we should have to let politicians manage most of the country’s resources and micromanage our lives with more rules and regulations. Conservatives’ vision of less government and more freedom isn’t a war on women.  Far from it. It’s a way to give women more control of their lives and create a more dynamic economy and innovative society that helps all of us pursue our own vision of happiness.